• Slash



    We – and by “we” I mean all of us – have been awfully slow to learn some important lessons.  We still believe that it is permissible to despoil our environment and destroy and waste our natural resources, and that – when we do – we are justified in saying that it was necessary in the interests of “turning a buck”, or “running a business” or “providing jobs”, and that we are then free to “clean up” the mess by tipping it into the nearest waterway and letting it wash down into the sea.

    Those seem to be the attitudes of the forestry industry, if the recent episode involving tons of “slash” – the debris left after trees have been felled – that  floated down the rivers to the coast, doing enormous damage to pasture, roads and bridges on the east coast around Tolaga Bay, is anything to go by.

    No one claims that this vandalism was deliberate.  It happened because the mess was left behind and no one could be bothered to clean it up, and it was then washed down rivers swollen by heavy rain.  But it was, at the very least, irresponsible and – typically enough – a manifestation of the attitude that “it’s not our problem”; it was regarded as a problem to be “externalised”, that is, passed on to someone else. Once the “slash” had been washed away, and had left the foresters’ land, it had supposedly been dealt with.

    Only, of course, quite apart from the damage it did on the way, surely we know by now that tipping waste, whether it be plastic bags, or dairy run-off, or slash, into the sea, does not solve such problems – it exacerbates them.  Once our waste reaches the sea, it has nowhere else to go, and the whole marine eco-system then has to bear the brunt.

    The sad thing about this most recent disaster is that it all happened in slow motion.  If you live as I do in the eastern Bay of Plenty, you will have had ample opportunity to see the crisis develop and build.  You could say that we had a foretaste of things to come.  Beaches such as Waiotahi have become over recent times almost impassable, as piles of “driftwood” (or, as we now know to call it, “slash”), have accumulated on the sand in the aftermath of every spell of heavy rain.  The warning signs of the threat posed by slash have been there, but neither the forestry industry nor the local authorities have recognised them or acted effectively to avert the damage.

    It is time that we were quicker to recognise the implications of what we do or allow others to do.  We don’t have endless chances to get it right.  Every time we make a mistake, the price is paid by the planet we live on – and sooner or later, we will find it impossible to row back.  It will not be enough to say then “if only we had known”; the damage will by then be irreversible – and what is true of “slash” is true of every other by-product irresponsibly produced by our selfish and short-term drive for profit.

    And a footnote for Eugenie Sage, the Green minister who, before the election, opposed the granting to Chinese interests of permission to bottle – free of charge – New Zealand water for export, but who – as the responsible minister – has now approved an extension of that permission.  She explained her reversal on the ground that, as a minister, she had to abide by what the law said, irrespective of her personal views.

    As a former politician myself, I always understood that most people who go into politics do so in order to carry the views they hold into policy and law so that they are given effect.  The usual pattern is that those who become ministers are thereby able to tell their ministries what to do, rather than the other way round.  I am afraid that the minister’s about-face has done damage to both the resources she is allegedly committed to protect and to the reputation of politicians.

    Bryan Gould

    14 June 2018


1 Comment

  1. Elizabeth Hamilton says: June 14, 2018 at 6:48 amReply

    I think that in general, what we are calling rubbish has been left on the ground to decay and provide ‘compost’ to enrich the earth and also some shelter for the next planting. This seems to have been successful on more gentle gradients. However it has proved to be tragic in these latest circumstances. It seems that from now on the best solution for erosion.on the East Cape is to cover the hills permanently with .bush.

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